We’re just 36 hours from crowning the 100th NFL champion with the conclusion of Super Bowl LIV. The narrative has largely been framed around the coaching experience of the Chief’s Andy Reid against the youthful brilliance of Kyle Shanahan. It should be as both have earned their way to football’s summit.
However the narrative that has dominated the headlines concerning both teams on the field is how can the 49ers 2nd ranked defense stop they dynamics Chiefs offense and all world QB Patrick Mahomes??
Over the last two seasons Mahomes has thrown for 76 TDs to just 17 interceptions. With TE Travis Kelce (97 rec. 1,229 yds/ 5TDs) Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill, and Mecole Hardman the NFL hasn’t seen this type of lethal speed since The Greatest Show on Turf St Louis Rams. This team can get deep on anyone.
One matchup to keep your eye on is LT Eric Fisher protecting against super rookie Nick Bosa. Each are former 1st round draft picks and had Fisher started all 16 games he might have been a Pro Bowl performer as he had been in 2018. Yet Bosa (9 sacks) Erik Armstead (10 sacks) and DeForest Buckner (7.5 sacks) have benefitted with the return of Dee Ford. They have to collapse the pocket and protect their secondary. If Mahomes can buy time he has the arm to get deep to Hill, Mecole, or Watkins on a 31 year old Richard Sherman.
Mahomes has only been sacked 17 times in the 14 games he’s started and the Niners plan to get after him. Watch for Kansas City to attack with screens early on to slow the pass rush down. Reid and OC Eric Bienemy did adjust to a 2TE alignment and run the Titans, a run heavy offense, out of their gameplan. Can they do that on the 2nd ranked 49er defense though??
However…Did you know the San Francisco 49ers outscored the Kansas City Chiefs this season 479-451?? Did you know the Kansas City Chiefs allowed fewer points than the 49ers 308-310??
Over the last 5 games of the season the 49ers gave up 147 points which included 46 given up to the Saints on the road. However the defense coming in hot is Kansas City where they only gave up 32 points over the last 5 games. For all the talk of 49er DC Robert Saleh it’s Chief DC Steve Spagnuolo whose defense has jelled as the season concluded.
He put the Chiefs in goalline defense on 4th and 1in the middle of the field in the AFC Championship Game. “Spags” has lined up his defense with 4 and 5 down linemen to stop bruising NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry when he had to. Now that Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones is healthy he has a pivotal role stopping the 49er running game.
All Pro and Pro Bowl S Tyrann Mathieu will be pit against 49er Pro Bowl TE Kerry Kittle. Number 85 (85 rec / 1053 yds / 5 TDs) has to have a dominant game against Mathieu and Sorenson. Don’t know if Kittle can get lose on the instinctive athletic safety. Spagnuolo had to learn the strengths of his new defense and Mathieu as his wildcard defender
Shanahan’s running game is the key to the 49ers winning it. He has taken the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands in these last two playoff games. He’s only thrown 27 passes while the offense ran 89 times and controlled the flow of both games. What is going to happen if forced out of that game plan?? Can they unhide Garoppolo??
The 49ers defense in games against mobile QBs Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson, they went 3-2 in those games giving up 27, 21, 25, 26, and 20 points while allowing an average of 147.6 yards rushing in those games. The Chancellor was front and center during the Halloween contest when they let Kyler Murray run 5 times for 34 yards to keep drives alive in a 28-25 loss. Keep in mind this is with 4 games played against division rivals they knew best.
When they faced a Lamar Jackson they didn’t know… he burst for 101 yards rushing. Mahomes will keep his eyes up and buy time for Hill and Watkins to get deep. In figuring the winner of this game the best defense will win.
Kansas City will win this game as they can be stopped for half the game and explode for 24 in just a few minutes. Patrick Mahomes will bring the Lombardi back to Kansas City 38-21.
Andy Reid finally wins that elusive Super Bowl!
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During each postseason every football fan dreads a moment where the game is decided by the referees and not the players on the field. We think back to “The Tuck Rule”, Mike Renfro’s catch/non catch in the ’79 AFC Championship, or Bert Emanuel’s catch/non catch in the NFC Championship. Yet yesterday for the 1st time since Referee Jim Tunney made the call after Renfro’s catch had a nationally televised audience yelling in anguish at a moment instant replay could have corrected.
Football coaches and players at all levels will tell you “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie” meaning the truth is always caught on film. It’s there for teams to study film against an opponent or the camera can catch what has been missed by the naked eye of an out of place referee. On Sunday we were stricken with two occasions that marred both conference championship games.
Which raises some questions for the NFL:
- Why can’t penalties or missed penalties like pass interference be reviewed??
- Why can’t a team challenge a play during the last two minutes of a ball game when it’s the most important time of the contest??
- Why does the ruling in under 2 minutes to go take place in a backroom at the NFL’s offices and not an official on the field in the arena??
Lets take a look at the 1st in the NFC Championship. With just 1:49 to go in a 20-20 tie at the 13 yard line, Drew Brees faced a 3rd and 10. Brees threw toward the near sideline to Tommylee Lewis who had run a wheel route out of the backfield when… and here it is in real time:
Coach Sean Payton screaming at the official withstanding, there were several penalties that could have and should have been called.
- Pass Interference: Robey-Coleman never turned to locate the ball colliding with Lewis before the ball arrived.
- Personal Foul: Blow to the head of a receiver reaching for the football.
- Illegal Contact: As Robey-Coleman hit Lewis at the 6 yard line, 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. You’re only allowed to chuck a receiver 5 yards downfield or under.
The fact we’re talking the final minutes of a conference championship game on the line and a Super Bowl berth at stake, this is one of the worst outcomes in the history of the league. The fact you had Fox analyst Mike Pereira, who is the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL right there expressing there could have been two of the penalties I just highlighted lent to a national televised audience despair with the situation. Let alone the emotional release of the Super Dome crowd who was witnessing “the great train robbery.” With booing you could have heard across state lines in Mississippi.
Our minds as fans were just coming to grips with the fiasco in New Orleans and the NFC Championship when the AFC Title Tilt reached the 4th quarter. With 7:05 to go in the game Kansas City held the momentum and a 21-17 lead when Chris Jones was flagged for a “roughing the passer” penalty. It was such a bad call both Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were in the middle of professing it was a phantom call when former NFL official Gene Sterratore offered this commentary:
Andy Reid should have been allowed to challenge that personal foul call!!
Now we have to talk about what needs to be done in this situation. First where has Roger Goodell been in the midst of one of the worst scandals in the history of the NFL?? His silence is glaring during a week when the league’s integrity is being called into question. With a Super Bowl on the line, these calls to put what many feel to be the match-up the league office wanted to see makes this the equivalent of the Black Sox Scandal in baseball a century earlier. If the Los Angeles Rams were to win down in Atlanta next Sunday, the NFL could wind up with it’s first champion with claims against it’s legitimacy.
There are several precedents that should have taken place. Goodell should have stepped in and had the final 1:49 of that game replayed. However he didnt and we have to guard the integrity of the game and remove the league office from the involvement of any contest while it’s going on. The league office controlling the official instant replay calls with 2:00 or under has always been a sore spot of contention anyway.
#1. The official in charge of the game to make any and all decisions need to be in charge of the game. Not some nefarious figure in the NFL office. What difference does it make to change a call in the 1st quarter if you’re derailed by an untimely call at the most important juncture of the game??
#2. Open Instant Replay challenges to three (per half) to all coaches and allow challenges at any and all times of the game. This needs to be opened up to challenge penalties called on the field and any 15 yard foul or defensive penalty that carries the weight of an automatic first down whether called or not called.
#3. The NFL needs to move to assigning officiating crews who have worked together all year to oversee playoff games. Not an all star crew. This way these officials know how to work together and communicate verbal and non-verbal along with confidently conferring with each official before making a big call in an important juncture of a playoff game.
The purpose of instant replay as an officiating tool is to get the call right. Ironically the day before these events, The Chancellor heard from Jim Tunney “The Dean of NFL Referees” about the controversial call in the ’79 AFC Championship his crew made on Mike Renfro’s catch/no catch that gave berth to the first incarnation of instant replay in officiating:
Here is what Jim Tunney offered as an explanation:
That scenario offered finality in knowing Tunney and his officials made the call on the field that day. As a historian I’ve never been able to speak on the Steelers as Super Bowl XIV champions and I doubt I would be able to do so if the Rams win it next Sunday.
However we need to see changes and the NFL needs to guard it’s integrity by letting the officials and an instant replay official on-site make every call concerning any contest. Blown calls need to be reversed even when it comes to a penalty being called or reversing a call where a flag had been thrown. Too much is at stake here.
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Up until two weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were sailing into uncharted waters. They were scoring at a rate of 37 points per game as they raced out to a gaudy 10-1 record. Patrick Mahomes was leading the most dynamic offense in the NFL that could score from anywhere. We hadn’t seen this lethal speed since “The Greatest Show on Turf” Rams earlier this century. Now what will happen as play calling will change as Kareem Hunt’s departure allows defenses to descend upon the young QB??
Before we made it to last week’s 40-33 win over the Oakland Raiders and last week’s 27-24 escape of the Ravens, the NFL’s biggest controversy saw the Chiefs release Kareem Hunt amid domestic violence allegations.
Of course Mahomes was masterful completing 23 of 38 for 295 yards and another “ho-hum” 4 touchdown performance against the moribund Raiders. But that is Jon Gruden’s tanking organization. Against the Ravens #1 ranked defense, Mahomes had to put in a little more work connecting on 35 of 53 aerials for 377 yards, 2 scores and an interception.
However the next 2 weeks provide a daunting task as Mahomes faces the L.A. Chargers (8th in defense) in an important AFC rubber match before taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest for a rugged game with the streaking Seahawks. Each of these present formidable challenges for the first year starter although he’s really had a season for the ages.
Aside from Hall of Fame legend Kurt Warner, no 1st year quarterback in NFL history can match Mahomes performance. With 3 games to go he already broke Warner’s single season record of 41 TDs for a 1st year starter with 43. With 4,300 yards he has a legitimate chance at 5,000 yards. Something Dan Marino didn’t do until his 2nd season as a starter.
Yes I know the rules have been relaxed but you have to give credit where it’s due. Look at Blake Bortles, Paxton Lynch, or even Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota…. have they shown this type of promise or command??
Mahomes has benefitted greatly learning from “The Quarterback Whisperer” in Head Coach Andy Reid. Keep in mind Brett Favre’s MVP seasons happened under his tutelage. Reid also drafted and developed Donovan McNabb where they went to 5 conference championships together and resurrected Michael Vick’s career.
Outside of Kansas City many of us worried Coach Reid had over-invested in turning the franchise over to Mahomes. Yet he has shown maturity even in prime time games with the 352 yard 4 touchdown performance in a 43-40 loss to Tom Brady and New England. He starred again on the national stage with a 478 yard 6TD performance in a 54-51 loss in Los Angeles. Sure he threw 3 interceptions but only 1 other time in history can you find a 1st year starter tossing 6TDs in an NFL game.
However he does get the rubber match with the LA Chargers and the winner is in line for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Mahomes gets this game at home however defenses are adjusting to the Chiefs without Kareem Hunt.
How will he perform in these last 3 games as a marked man?? As for Taylor Blitz Times Offensive Player of the Year he is definitely in the running and is one of the players who has clearly defined this season.
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When you look back at seasons past, many of the NFL champions had a feeling of inevitability to them. You can remember the greatest of champions putting their stamp on the season as they started to separate from other contenders. The inadequacies that kept them from winning it all before, had seemingly been swept away.
Yet when that team runs into a brick wall on the way to what was supposed to be their championship. It becomes the expiration date on their being a legitimate contender and you’re left with…what if??? Enter the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles.
Head Coach Andy Reid was hired in ’99 from the Green Bay Packers and the Mike Holmgren coaching tree. As Quarterback Coach he oversaw Brett Favre as he accumulated 3 straight NFL MVP trophies, 2 Super Bowl visits, and 1 championship in their final 3 seasons together. By drafting McNabb in year 1 for Reid to develop, the future looked bright.
As the 2000’s began, your Philadelphia Eagles were developing a young Donovan McNabb at quarterback. He was the shining member of the quarterback class of 1999, and he had become a dynamic play maker in Head Coach Andy Reid’s “West Coast Offense”. Although he was developing as a passer, he would take off on serpentine runs when plays broke down. They ran the ball by committee at RB and relied on a gambling blitzing defense run by the late Jim Johnson.
Philadelphia became a wildcard entrant in 2000, where they gained confidence with a 21-3 hammering of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following week they lost a 20-10 slugfest in the divisional round v the Giants. New York went on to play in Super Bowl XXXV and did so based on 3 wins over Philly. So the die was cast, a little improvement and the Eagles could play in the Super Bowl.
No one knew beginning with the 2001 NFC Championship a new odyssey would begin. Three consecutive losses in the championship game left the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia mired in despair. They lost a tough game in ’01 to The Greatest Show on Turf St Louis Rams 29-24, although they were underdogs on the road. This was nothing compared to what happened next.
The 2002 NFC Championship had the Eagles hosting in the last game ever in Veterans Stadium. A title starved city was raucous in anticipation as the Buccaneers were making the trip to The City of Brotherly Love for a 3rd consecutive postseason. The ’00 Wildcard win established the Eagles as the up and coming team in the NFC and not the Bucs. The ’01 Wildcard solidified the notion and Tampa fired Head Coach Tony Dungy.
The Eagles were planning an NFC Championship coronation with an outdoor trophy presentation. The field was surrounded by police mounted on horseback. One small problem…the Bucs won the game 27-10 thanks to new Coach Jon Gruden’s offense. Tampa was motivated by those previous playoff losses. They went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII 48-21 over Oakland.
After another NFC Championship flame-out against Carolina in ’03, and it appeared the Eagles had let their championship window close.
Speculation rained down over the organization. Had the Eagles put enough offensive talent around McNabb to become a champion?? Rush Limbaugh was fired by ESPN over comments “the NFL was desirous of a black quarterback doing well.” Donovan McNabb had thrown for 1 TD & 5 interceptions in the 3 NFC Title losses. Was McNabb given a pass for his poor performances?? Everyone had an opinion…until
The front office struck a blow in Free agency when they signed DE Jevon Kearse then traded for WR Terrell Owens. These were the two big fish available in the 2004 off-season and Philly nabbed them both. Gone was the attitude the Eagles didn’t need to sign blue chip talent to make it to the Super Bowl. It was all or nothing for 2004.
A perennial top 10 defense returned to form after sliding to 20th in the 2003 season. With Kearse (7.5 sacks) the Eagles returned to form as they garnered 45 sacks and 17 ints in 2014. Up from 35 sacks and 13 picks the season before. Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson didn’t blitz as often with a dominant presence like Kearse in the lineup.
McNabb, now with the league’s best receiver in T.O., had the best season of his career. In his previous 3 complete seasons he averaged 57% completion rate, 3,272 yards, 22 TDs and 11 interceptions. In ’04 he completed 64% of his passes for 3,758 yards, 31 touchdowns to just 8 picks. He set several club records and Owens was on his way to when he suffered a fractured ankle in week 15 after a dirty horse collar tackle by Roy Williams in a 12-7 win over Dallas.
Before that Owens, and his endzone antics, had shredded the league with 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 scores. He had made a pact with Coach Reid to score 15 TDs and if he did so Reid would have to don a pair of tights. Damn he came close but the real story became what would the 13-3 Eagles do in the upcoming playoffs without their #1 playmaker??
They would have to rely on the receivers from previous years who weren’t thought of as making enough plays to get the Eagles over the top. Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston, and Greg Lewis. It was Mitchell who scored twice in the 24-14 NFC Divisional playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings. Running back Brian Westbrook (1,515 yards from scrimmage) would be relied upon heavily. Although there was speculation T.O. might make it back if the team made it to the Super Bowl. To do so they would have to make it past their albatross… the NFC Championship Game.
Leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX, the lead story had been would Terrell Owens play in the title games. With several surgical screws in his ankle, and after signing an injury waiver, he was available on center stage.
The Eagles 24-21 loss was a valiant effort. Just 6 weeks after fracturing his ankle, Terrell Owens 9 rec for 122 yards was a sight to behold. They were beaten by the defending champion New England Patriots who were just a step better. McNabb had thrown for over 300 yards but had 3 costly interceptions that were the difference in a close, close Super Bowl. The Eagles were primed to make it back to the big dance in ’05.
However the expiration date had come and gone on the Eagles as a personality conflict between T.O. and Donovan McNabb tore at the fabric of the team. Owens would eventually be released for conduct detrimental to the team. After a 3-1 start, the ’05 Eagles fell to a 6-10 record which included a 42-0 road loss to the eventual NFC Champion Seahawks. . The run was over.
Andy Reid coached on through the 2012 campaign with several playoff seasons but none where the Eagles were considered elite. McNabb played on through 2009 before leaving for Washington. He was replaced by Michael Vick, the quarterback he beat for the 2004 NFC Championship.
Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and their … “irreconcilable differences” derailed a promising team and the City of Brotherly Love had to wait another 13 years before capturing a title.
Did Donovan McNabb lose his chance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of this rift?? Something to ponder…
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The late Bum Phillips when discussing Don Shula’s coaching abilities once said “Shula can take his’n and beat your’n then take your’n and beat his’n.” In layman terms he could beat any opponent no matter the personnel he had or was given. This fits the 2013 season for several National Football League coaches but the one who’s coaching style best illustrates this is Chief’s coach Andy Reid.
Consider the fact Kansas City was coming off of the worst season in NFL history. Not only was the coaching staff headed by Romeo Crennel escorted out the door. The players left behind endured a 2-14 season, along with the suicide of former teammate Jovan Belcher. At the practice facility no less. In 2012 this team had lost 13 of it’s last 14 and scored just 211 points all year. Good for dead last in the NFL.
All Reid did was breathe life into an organization with a forgotten quarterback in Alex Smith. Whom San Francisco discarded when Colin Kaepernick stepped to the fore midway through last season. Consequently he provided Smith with his 6th offensive coordinator in 8 years.
Just as he had with Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Brett Favre, and a resurrected Michael Vick, he got the most out of his quarterback and made the playoffs. Smith finished with career highs in yardage (3,313), touchdowns (23) and nearly eclipsed his career low in interception percentage (1.4% in 2013 v 1.1% in 2011). By the way that led the league
It took awhile for the offense to get into a groove as the defense led the Chiefs to a 9-0 start. They finished 11-5 while scoring 430 points, good enough for 6th in the league, while allowing 305 points good enough for 6th defensively.
Aside from Smith, he performed this with players that had been with the Chiefs the previous year. His career was at a crossroads after being dismissed in Philadelphia. His message had grown stale as his Eagle’s free-fell from playoff contention losing 11 of 12. Reid has his team heading to Indianapolis for a wild card tilt with the Colts this Saturday. However that game turns out this has been a successful season for both he and the Chiefs.
By the way… Taylor Blitz saw this coming: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/
2. Bill Belichick – What else needs to be said about Belichick’s coaching abilities?? In 2013 he began the season without the top 5 receivers from the year before. He endured the awful controversy that is the Aaron Hernandez murder case and steered his team onward. Then he loses two of his leaders in perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork and leading tackler Jerrod Mayo for the season. Yet here they are 12-4 entering the playoffs as the #2 seed having already beaten #1 seed Denver in the regular season. He’s two wins away from coaching a record 6th Super Bowl and participating in his 9th.
He’s the greatest National Football League coach since Vince Lombardi without a doubt. Under normal circumstances he would be runaway coach of the year. He’ll have to settle for second on my list because he did have Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to help guide the ship. The Patriots have played in the last two AFC Championship games and we had them predicted to make it to this one as well. Their missing key contributors and roll into the playoffs having won 5 of their last 6. One of those is over the Denver Broncos. Please don’t underscore that for it’s importance if they play again.
3. Chip Kelly – “Man he’s not going to win with that gimmicky college offense in the pros.” You can remember hearing that before the season and it died somewhere around week 7. I had my reservations as well but no one counted on Nick Foles becoming one of the National Football League’s best quarterbacks. Yet they have the NFL rushing champion in LeSean McCoy and the defense is making timely plays. He infused a new atmosphere in a place Andy Reid used to call home but he is using Reid’s old players. How he does in the NFL playoffs will dictate how he’ll take command of the NFC East next year.
Congratulations to Andy Reid…Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year
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